Wyoming Court Records
Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Wyoming
A criminal record in Wyoming contains all information about an individual’s criminal history and contact with the state justice system. These records include arrest records, conviction records, and sentencing information. Following a court case, the records are filed and maintained by the state’s The Division of Criminal Investigation. According to Wyoming Open Records law, the criminal records are open to the public for inspection, which may be a disadvantage to the convicted individuals. Open criminal records can serve as an obstruction to employment, education, and housing for convicted individuals. However, the state provides the option of expunging or sealing those records, thereby making them unavailable to the public. Expungement removes and seals all documents related to a criminal case such that it becomes unavailable for dissemination and in-state background checks. However, according to state laws, only specific criminal records are eligible for expungement.
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
The primary difference between sealing and expunging criminal records in Wyoming is how the courts manage the case files after each order is given. In the case of expungement, criminal records are cleared from court databases and state background checks. In contrast, although the court restricts sealed records, it maintains the record in a legal and physical sense. Therefore, inquirers can see the records, but the court indicates that part or all of it is sealed by court order. Also, expunged records can only be seen by law enforcement agencies, while sealed records can be accessed by any interested party that petitions the court for access.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in Wyoming
The Wyoming court rules governing access to court records allows individuals to limit public access to the information contained in criminal records. A party may file a motion to restrict public access to a criminal case file provided the action is supported by an affidavit showing good cause. The motion and affidavit should be filed along with proof of service to other parties in the case. In 30 days, if there are no objections to the motion from any served party, the court will review the action and grant the order. The order to restrict public access will only be granted if the court determines that disclosure of the information contained in the case records will be injurious to any party. In contrast with expunged records, the court indicates the existence of a sealed record but restricts public access to it.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Wyoming
Wyoming expungement statutes authorize the court to expunge the following convictions:
- Misdemeanor convictions
Examples of eligible convictions include simple misdemeanor assault, battery, domestic violence, reckless endangerment, etc. Petitioners may file for expungement five years after the completion of the sentence. If the crime involved the use of firearms, it could not be expunged.
Also, suppose the individual seeking expungement was a minor (under 18 years of age) at the time of conviction; the offense is not categorized as a criminal act according to the law. Therefore, the petitioner may file for expungement when the misdemeanor is at least one year old.
- Felony convictions
All felonies can be expunged except firearm felonies, violent felonies, crimes that require the perpetrator to register as a sex offender, child endangerment, bribery, first or second-degree arson, perjury, felony DUI, violence against corrections or detention officers, and drug distribution felonies.
Individuals seeking expungement for felony criminal convictions can file the request ten years after the sentence expires. The conviction must also be the petitioner’s first felony conviction.
- Juvenile Convictions
Commonly, Title 14 and Chapter 6 of the Wyoming Statutes provide that minors found guilty of delinquent acts (except violent felonies)can have their records expunged when they turn 18. The law mandates that if they maintain exemplary behavior after conviction to prove that they have been rehabilitated, they may petition the court for expungement. Wyoming Legislature in 2019 enacted HB0044, which provides automatic expungement of juvenile conviction records when the offenders become adults.
Finally, arrest records can be expunged when the arrest is at least six months old. Eligible arrest records include records of arrests with no conviction, arrests where no formal charges were filed, and arrests and criminal proceedings dismissed by the prosecutor or the court. To expunge such records, the individual petitioning the court must have no pending criminal charges.
How to Expunge Criminal Records in Wyoming
The first and most important requirement to expunge criminal records in Wyoming is completing the terms of the sentence and probation placed on the offender by the court of law. The entire expungement process will be null and void if the individual files a petition for expungement with pending charges and sentences. Eventually, when eligibility is determined, the following steps will follow:
- Prepare and File a Petition for Expungement
The petition must be filed at the court where the case was originally heard. The petitioner must provide proof of eligibility and reasons for requesting the expungement.
Although the process is simple and can be performed alone, it is advisable to take an attorney’s advice. The expungement process is delicate, and mistakes may be detrimental.
- Inform the Necessary Parties of the Filing
The parties (individuals or agencies) in the case are otherwise referred to as respondents. They must be informed of the petition and also served a copy. If the respondents object to the expungement, the court will schedule a hearing to decide the case. The respondents include the prosecuting attorney, investigation departments, and victims of the crime.
- Expungement Hearing
At the hearing, the court reviews the charges, inspects the petition, and hears testimonies from the petitioner and objecting parties, if there are any. With these, the court determines whether to grant the order or not.
- Preparation and signing of the Order
If the court grants the expungement, the petitioner must prepare an Order of Expungement for the judge to sign. After the judge signs the order, the court seals all related records in its possession. It also sends a copy of the order to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Department, where all associated files including documents of arrest, conviction, disposition, etc., will be removed from public view.
Once the record is expunged, all rights and privileges lost because of the conviction will be restored.
Do Sealed Records Show up In Wyoming Background Checks?
No, sealed or expunged records do not show up in Wyoming standard background checks. An expungement order in the state mandates that expunged records should be removed from law enforcement databases. Therefore, expunged records are unavailable on background checks. Also, the individuals who have expunged their criminal records are not required to disclose the expunged conviction to members of the public, including employers, landlords, and housing agents.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Wyoming
Wyoming law enforcement agencies can access sealed or expunged criminal records. An expungement order closes a criminal record in court databases and removes it from law enforcement databases. However, they remain visible to law enforcement agencies for official reasons. Further, if the expunged criminal conviction was documented in newspaper articles or blogs, it may still be available to the public.
How to Obtain Sealed Records in Wyoming
Sealed records in Wyoming are accessible with a formal court order. Rule 9 of the Wyoming court rules provide that sealed records are accessible via motions requesting access. The interested party may file a motion requesting an order for limited intervention and backed by a legal declaration of good cause. The individual must prove to the court that disclosure of the sealed records favors public interest and that the decision protects individual privacy rights.
If there are no objections from the other parties in the case, the court may grant the order to unseal the records.
Contrarily, members of the public cannot be allowed to access or inspect records sealed by an expungement order. Once the documents are expunged, only state law enforcement agencies can access them for official reasons only.